Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 09-CR-14944. The Honorable Noreen Love, Judge, presiding.
For PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE: Alan J. Spellberg, Annette Collins, Veronica Calderon Malavia, Office of the State's Attorney, County of Cook, Chicago, IL.
For DEFENDANT-APPELLANT: Rachel Moran, Office of the State Appellate Defender, Chicago, IL.
HYMAN, JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Pucinski and Justice Lavin concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] After a bench trial, defendant, Eliseo Argueta, was convicted of 3 counts of predatory criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-14.1(a)(1) (West 2008)); 6 counts of criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-13(a)(1) (West 2008)); and 9 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse (720 ILCS 5/12-16(b), (c)(1)(i), (c)(2)(ii) (West 2008)). The trial court sentenced Argueta to 7 years' incarceration for each of the predatory criminal sexual assault convictions, to be served consecutively. The remaining counts (IV through XVIII) merged. The sole issue on appeal relates to whether, after the State had rested, the trial court properly refused Argueta's request for an interpreter for his own testimony at trial. Argueta, a native Spanish speaker and El Salvador citizen who described himself as " bilingual," repeatedly declined an interpreter during numerous interactions with the court the year before trial. On the record before us, we find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing Argueta's request to testify in Spanish at his trial.
[¶3] Because of the sensitive nature of the subject of this appeal, we summarize only the portions of the record relevant to the issue presented.
[¶5] Argueta was charged by indictment with 3 counts of predatory criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-14.1(a)(1) (West 2008)); 6 counts of criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-13(a)(1) (West 2008)); and 9 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse (720 ILCS 5/12-16(b), (c)(1)(i), (c)(2)(ii) (West 2008)). On September 3, 2009, Argueta, represented by an assistant public defender, was arraigned in English.
[¶6] On January 11, 2010, with an interpreter present in court, Argueta's new assistant public defender indicated that Argueta understood English " when the situation is not complicated like today." The following colloquy between the trial court and Argueta ensued:
" Q. *** Do you understand English, sir?
A. Not 100 percent.
Q. It is easier for you if you have the presence of the interpreter?
Q. Now, with respect to being able to discuss this without your lawyer, are you comfortable doing it without the interpreter?
A. I believe so.
Q. If there are any problems and you feel that you can't quite understand anything your attorney is saying, I am sure your lawyer will make sure that when you come back you will have the interpreter so that the two of you can actually sit down and discuss the matter at length."
[¶7] An interpreter assisted at status hearings on March 3, April 12, June 7, July 29, August 24, and December 7, 2010, but none appeared on September 27 and November 4, 2010. On January 20, 2011, Argueta's defense attorney represented to the court that Argueta did not need a Spanish interpreter: " I want to make the record clear. He doesn't need a Spanish interpreter. Your Honor, Mr. Argueta is before the Court. I have spoken with Mr. Argueta a couple of times now in English, and Mr. Argueta indicates to me he does not need a Spanish interpreter any more." The trial court queried: " Is that accurate, sir?" and Argueta responded " Yes."
[¶8] On February 22, 2011, with an interpreter present, the trial court indicated on the record that on the last court date that she and Argueta " had a conversation" and he " did not need the services of the Spanish interpreter. Apparently he understood what was going on quite well." Asked if that was correct, Argueta responded, " The last time, yeah." The following occurred:
" Q. So you understand what's going on?
A. A little. Sometimes not a hundred percent sure.
Q. Okay. He speaks English quite well ...